Israel Must Do Its Part to Stop Global Warming

Israel should encourage the use of solar energy and make transportation, electricity and water usage more efficient.

The international debate on global warming has garnered only minor interest in Israel, and as revealed in yesterday's State Comptroller's report, Israeli authorities have not yet made even basic attempts to address the climate crisis.

This indifference should not diminish the severity of the situation. The earth is growing dangerously warmer, a result of the continued use of hydrocarbon fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Saving the earth and mankind depends on international cooperation to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Until now, the action taken has been too little, too late.

Today the United Nations Climate Change Conference meets in Copenhagen, where the representatives of 192 countries will try to reach an unprecedented agreement over the division of greenhouse gas emission caps. Their success depends on the willingness of representatives of countries rich and poor, from East and West, to cooperate for the greater good rather than sliding into recriminations and petty rivalries.

The commitment of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has taken the lead in confronting the climate crisis, unlike his predecessor, is cause for hope, even if months will likely pass before a accord can be reached.

Such an agreement will obligate industrialized countries to assist developing ones in reaping the benefits of economic growth without raising greenhouse gas emissions.

Israel has only a peripheral role to play in negotiations between the world's major economic players. It is not currently required to reduce emissions, and in any case has limited ability to do so - it has virtually no heavy, polluting industry, and its water system is dependent on the construction of treatment facilities which consume tremendous amounts of energy.

For economic, political and security reasons, Israel is also hamstrung in its ability to forgo the use of oil and gas. It is still too early to predict if and when the plans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for developing clean energy will come to pass.

Still, Israel should do its part to encourage the use of solar energy, develop green building methods and make transportation, electricity and water usage more efficient.

The government can influence this process by educating the public and offering incentives for such development. The State Comptroller's report on the government's haplessness thus far should motivate it to act, and soon.